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Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Whatever you think about Obama — and he is not very popular these days — the fact remains that he is one of the most talented politicians of our age. At his best, he gives a heck of a speech, he is undoubtedly intelligent and thoughtful, and while I disagree with most of his policies, he did inspire a lot of hope and passion during his amazing  — and succesful — campaign for the Presidency two years ago.

When I see Marco Rubio, I see the same qualities that Obama has — charisma, charm, a great personal story, and an excellent speaker. He is the star of this mid-term election. He will be a senator in 5 days. And I believe he will become President within the next ten years. Mark my words.

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A pretty fair article by Ed Kilgore on the widening rift between progressives and libertarians.

One mini-saga of the past decade in American politics has been the flirtation—with talk of a deeper partnership—between progressives and libertarians. These two groups were driven together, in the main, by common hostility to huge chunks of the Bush administration’s agenda: endless, pointless wars; assaults on civil liberties; cynical vote-buying with federal dollars; and statist panders to the Christian right.

This cooperation reached its height during the 2006 election, in which, according to a new study by David Kirby and David Boaz, nearly half of libertarian voters supported Democratic congressional candidates—more than doubling the support levels from the previous midterm election in 2002.

Well, you can say goodbye to all that. The new Kirby/Boaz study reports that libertarian support for Democrats collapsed in 2008, despite many early favorable assessments of Barack Obama by libertarian commentators. Meanwhile, the economic crisis has raised the salience of issues on which libertarians and Dems most disagree. And there’s no question that during Obama’s first year—with the rise of the Tea Party movement and national debate over bailouts, deficits, and health care—libertarian hostility to the new administration has grown adamant and virtually universal.

[…]

So could “liberaltarianism” make a comeback in a not-too-distant future, when today’s passions have abated? You never know for sure, but the next major obstacle to cooperation may well be the Supreme Court’s decision on corporate political spending in Citizens United v. FEC, which libertarians celebrated as a victory for free speech, and most liberals denounced as a travesty if not a national disaster.

Cancel the Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers; this romance is dead.

I agree that “liberaltarianism” is kinda dead at the moment. Ed Kilgore thinks that progressives shouldn’t mind that too much. I disagree with his reasoning.

But 2008 showed that libertarian support is hardly crucial: Obama still won “libertarian” states such as Colorado and New Hampshire handily, even without their backing, and he generally performed better in the “libertarian West” than any Democratic nominee since LBJ.

I am sceptical of the claim that Obama lacked the backing of libertarians. Yes the Kirby-Boaz paper does say that McCain won libertarians about 70-30, but I suspect that study  oversamples southern conservatives. It is unfortunate they do not have a state-by state cross-tabs, which would give some indication how the libertarians voted in Colorado and New Hampshire. Moreover, even Kirby-Boaz conclude that Obama won the younger libertarians, the ones who will really matter in future elections.

True, most libertarians disagreed with large parts of the Obama agenda, but they also typically thought that McCain was far, far worse. Reason magazine’s survey of its writers in 2008 showed almost no support for McCain, almost everyone supported Obama or Barr. A majority of libertarian intellectuals, despite their misgivings, certainly preferred Obama over McCain.

Many of these people are now turning away from the Democrats. Kilgore is probably right about the inevitability of this break-up. From the point of view of electoral politics, however, the Democrats will ignore the libertarian vote at their own peril.

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My reaction was, and remains: WTF. If I were to expand on that, it would be roughly on the lines of this oped.

The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

[…] Mr Obama becomes the third sitting US President to receive the prize. The committee said today that he had “captured the world’s attention”. It is certainly true that his energy and aspirations have dazzled many of his supporters. Sadly, it seems they have so bedazzled the Norwegians that they can no longer separate hopes from achievement. The achievements of all previous winners have been diminished.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee has made several ridiculous choices before but this one takes the cake.

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Reason has some exclusive footage from the aborted sentencing yesterday.

Meanwhile, if you are a reader who is not entirely familiar with the timeline and details of the Charlie Lynch case, I strongly recommend this excellent Reason summary.

To read my various posts on the case, click here.

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In response to questions from the court about how to proceed with the Lynch case given that government policy on this issue seems to have reversed, this is what the US Department of Justice wrote in a letter sent earlier today by Marshall Jarrett, Director.

Not only does the DoJ has no intention of intervening in the Lynch case, it also thinks that the prosecution and conviction of Lynch was entirely consistent with present department policies as well as recent statements made by the attorney general.

As I have noted several times before, one of Obama’s campaign promises was that the DEA will end its medical marijuana raids, a stance that was recently reaffirmed by US attorney general Eric Holder.

So what do you call someone who says one thing and does the opposite?

This is not merely a matter of abstract policy. It is a matter of lives ruined or saved. It is a matter of deciding what happens to real people. Like Charles Lynch who ran a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay that helped relieve the pain of the sick and the dying.

In an earlier post on the topic of DEA raids I said that I would give Obama three months. If there was no sign of any real change in policy, I would call him out for what he would then have proved to be.

Lynch faces a minimum of five years in prison. If he gets the maximum sentence the law allows, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Whatever sentence he gets will be for actions that are fully legal under California law. Whatever punishment the government hands him will be for deeds neither more nor less than what even those who believe recreational drug use is evil ought to recognise as a sincere service to those who had lost all other hope.

Sentencing in the Lynch case which was scheduled for March 23, 2009 was postponed because the judge requested information from the government regarding the new policy regarding medical marijuana dispensaries.

So what do you call a man who plays with words in order to give an illusion of change? Who is Barack Obama?

The evidence currently points to the fact that at least on the issue of marijuana policy, he is a liar. Of the worst possible sort.

Now that Obama and his government has made it unambiguously clear to the court that they approve of Lynch’s prosecution, there seems to be little reason why the court should wait. There have been many postponements of the sentencing so far, but there are unlikely to be any more.

Charlie Lynch will learn his fate on April 23 in Los Angeles.

(Previous posts on Charlie Lynch here)

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  •  While GM and Chrysler are in their last throes, Ford is trudging on. Obama may have fired GM’s CEO and told Chrysler exactly what to do but he has had no such luck controlling Ford. The company has refused offers of taxpayer life support and believes it can not only survive this recession but in fact prosper. It’s CEO, Mullaly does not hide his admiration for Toyota and believes that in a few years Ford will be viewed on par with the Japanese giant. “I would love people in the future to say, ‘There’s Toyota and Honda and Ford,’ ” says Ford’s North American chief Mark Fields. “We have the goods to do it.”
  • It may be the strangest worm to ever hit the internet. The unknown creators of the Conficker worm have earned praise for their breathtaking sophistication even from the supranational security forces that are currently trying to track them down. So far the worm has done nothing except morph into more sophisticated variants but estimates for the number of infected — and thus controllable — computers range from five to fifteen million. Microsoft has announced a $250,000 bounty for information leading to the identity of the hacker who created it. Everyone only agrees on two things: it is the most complex and brilliant piece of malware written in years and no one knows what it can really do if it’s controller decides to wake it up.
  • Today, the federal excise tax on every pack of cigarettes will jump from 39 cents to $1.01, the single largest federal tobacco tax increase ever. Future plans in the works include outlawing risky sports, putting a 1000% tax on cheeseburgers, and having fines for too little exercise; eventually anything that places a ‘needless burden on society’ will be either banned or taxed to such an extent that everyone will be forced to conduct themeselves in an exemplary manner. Ok, I made up the last sentence. But you get the idea. You see, it is for the sake of the children.
  • Brooke Oberwetter has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Parks Police officer who arrested her last year. She was arrested while — and apparently because — she was quietly dancing to her iPod during a planned celebration at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
  • Celebrities are getting strange fantasies involving President Obama and have no qualms about admitting it. “I’ll collect paper cups off the ground to make [Obama’s] pathway clear,” Halle Berry recently told the Philadelphia Daily News, “I’ll do whatever he says.” And in February, author Judith Warner used her New York Times blog to confess that “The other night I dreamt of Barack Obama. He was taking a shower right when I needed to get into the bathroom to shave my legs.”
  • A beautiful piece by former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper on drug legalization.

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“Obama is causing a lot of Rand fans to completely flip their lids in part because Obama and his devotees are Bizarro World Randian romantics in the grip of an adolescent faith in the generative powers of the state.”

Will Wilkinson.

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So says Eric Holder.

As I wrote in this post, ending the raids was one of Obama’s campaign promises, so one would reasonably expect him to reverse Bush policy on this issue.  Politicians though, have lied on such matters before and political appointees even more so; thus I will wait to see actual change on the ground before celebrating.

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This is terrific news.

Around three months before the elections, I had listed the possible re-imposition of the fairness doctrine as one of the downsides of an Obama victory. Now that Obama has categorically ruled out that option, I think it is safe to strike it off from my list of fallouts.

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Jacob Sullum writes:

Yesterday I wondered whether and when President Obama would follow through on his oft-repeated campaign promise to stop the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws by harassing patients and dispensaries. Today The Washington Times reports that Obama plans to suspend the DEA’s raids once he “nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.” I don’t understand why Obama can’t simply tell the Bush administration holdovers to cut it out; they work for him now. But it’s encouraging that the White House is now on record with a promise to keep Obama’s promise. “The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Times, “and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind.” It seems like Obama is dragging his feet, but it will be hard for him to wriggle out of his commitment now.

Hmm…

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Having praised Obama yesterday, I think it is all the more important to point out that so far, there are no signs he has reversed the policy of raiding medical marijuana units in states like California (where medical marijuana is legal).

As Jacob Sullum puts it:

“I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” Obama told the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune last March. How many more raids will it take before that counts as a lie?

Obama categorically said on the campaign trail — to the Tribune as well as to other questioners — that he would end these raids (the raids themselves are possible because of  a ridiculous state-federal law incompatibility on this issue). For many libertarian leaning people, that statement of Obama’s was one of the primary reasons they supported him. 

Yes, he deserves some slack. It takes a little while to change policy, and he has been in power for just a few weeks. He has  had a lot on his plate, with the economic crisis and appointment troubles, and it is understandable if he hasn’t been able to deal with this matter yet.

So I am going to give him three months. If these raids continue beyond that, I’ll call him out for what he will then have proved to be — a liar with ruined lives on his hands.

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• Tom Daschle — big government healthcare lord with plenty of tax issues  — is out. Obama admits he screwed up. Refreshing.

• He might actually kill the terrible protectionist clause from the stimulus. I certainly did not expect this. 

• He has selected an excellent nominee for the secretary of commerce post, it’s a Republican who once voted to abolish the position!

These are early days yet. However, so far, from a libertarian viewpoint, Obama has proved to be excellent in the areas Democrats are supposed to be good at (due process, civil rights of detainees) and if his appointments and attitudes are any indication, significantly better than Bush in the areas the Democrats are supposed to be bad at (economics). I would be interested in seeing what stance he takes though if the Dems start pressing more contentious legislation (card check, fairness doctrine).

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The New Republic has a fascinating article on the dynamics between Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner, the two principal players of Obama’s economic team. An excerpt:

It’s only natural that a man who was hailed as one of his generation’s great academic minds by age 30 and who’d become Treasury secretary by 45 would have strong opinions on a thick menu of issues. Or, for that matter, that he’d have an urge to share them. In the years before he joined the Obama administration, Summers showcased his thinking on practically every economic ailment facing the country in a monthly Financial Times column. He is, in other words, not so much a bureaucratic imperialist as a natural-born economist, with all that implies about argumentative style.

[…] Having to share territory with the inadvertently expansionist Summers could easily lead to a demoralizing trench war. But that won’t be the case with Geithner. He’s a man who made a career not only of exerting subtle bureaucratic influence, but of happily co-existing with Summers himself. (The two are good friends.) Even during the tax flap’s most fevered moment–a Maureen Dowd column titled “Tim Geithner! Why Are Rich People So Cheap?” comes to mind–Geithner remained an internal force. At the time, Politico suggested Summers had horned in on the bank bailout–ostensibly Treasury’s portfolio–noting that it was his name, not Geithner’s, that appeared on a letter to Congress about the second $350 billion installment. But, while Summers did affix his name to the letter, Geithner and his staff actually authored it. Administration officials simply felt Summers was the more appropriate public face until Geithner could be confirmed.

Read the whole thing.

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I am a long time reader of Radley Balko’s outstanding blog, The Agitator, and I have seldom seen him this jubilant.

From yesterday’s post:

Credit where it’s due: Well done, Mr. Obama. I’m sure we’ll have our differences, but afer your first 40+ hours on the job, this libertarian couldn’t be happier.

The tally:

  • Obama rescinded Bush’s 2001 executive order allowing former presidents, vice presidents, and their heirs to claim executive privilege in determining which of their records get released to the public. Even better, he’s requiring the signature of both his White House counsel and the attorney general before he can classify a document under executive privilege.
  • Issued a memorandum to all executive agencies asking them to come up with a new plan for open government and complying with FOIA requests. […]
  • Put a freeze on the salaries of top White House aides.
  • Suspended the military trials at Gitmo, and is expected to issue an order closing Gitmo as soon as today.
  • Said this:

    “For a long time now there has been too much secrecy in this city.  […] The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent and holding it accountable. I expect my administration not only to live up to the letter but the spirit of this law.”

  • Yes, it’s only been one day. But this is mighty impressive. Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to sign orders rolling back his predecessor’s expansion of executive power. Put another way, Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to institute limits on his own power.

    That’s something even a cynic like me can celebrate.

    And today:

    Rock ‘n’ Roll:

    President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. […]Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

    It’s worth emphasizing again here these steps Obama’s taking effectively limit his own power. That’s extraordinary.

    […]

    In that regard, if I may borrow a phrase: mission accomplished.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say mission accomplished. But these are certainly very important steps and ones that libertarians ought to applaud the president for. 

    I have criticized Obama on several occasions on this blog. Undoubtedly I’ll do so on many more. His basic economic philosophy is some kind of pragmatic statism, his ideology stresses on sacrifices and obligations rather than liberty and he displayed some disturbing tendencies towards censorship during the campaign. But he is also a sensible and highly intelligent person and his actions so far have been far more friendly towards freedom than his rhetoric has been (that’s a trade-off I’ll happily take).

    So credit where credit’s due. Well done.

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    [Post edited] I discovered this video today. It is a recording of a speech Obama made more than an year ago. The familiar themes of collectivist altruism (this is Obama after all!) have their place but the speech is mainly about religion in a political context. Having heard many good and not so good Obama speeches, I think the one ranks among his best. It is extremely substantive and gives a lot of insight into Obama’s thinking on these matters. As an atheist, I find 26:50 to 31:30 particularly relevant.

    Another very significant section is 21:50 to 22:39 where Obama talks of personal morality and its effect on political philosophy. This should be heard in conjunction with 28:25 to 29:44. Of course, Obama is talking in a religious context here but I think it is interesting to reinterpret these passages as applied to ideologies, particularly those with a moral  component. I hope to expand on this theme in one of my long planned essays.

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